CBSN

Remains of fetuses and infants removed from second Detroit funeral home

This image from Google Earth shows the Perry Funeral Home in Detroit. 

Google Earth

Last Updated Oct 21, 2018 12:14 AM EDT

DETROIT — About 63 fetuses and infants have been removed from a Detroit funeral home, the second facility where remains have been improperly disposed. Police discovered the remains at the Perry Funeral Home on Friday.  

The remains were found in unrefrigerated boxes and a deep freezer, authorities said. Some of the bodies had dates of death in 2015.

"I've never seen anything (like this) in my 41 and a half years" as an officer, Detroit police chief James Craig said, the Detroit Free Press reported. "It's disturbing, but we will get to the bottom of this."

Perry Funeral Home issued a statement late Saturday through its attorney saying the remains involve "unclaimed infant remains." The funeral home said they followed state protocol for disposing of infant remains, and they were never notified that the parents of the decesased wanted the remains donated to medical schools. 

Perry Funeral Home is the second such facility in Detroit where fetuses have been found. The remains of 10 fetuses and an infant were found hidden in the ceiling of a former Detroit funeral home last week. In that case, an anonymous letter led state regulators to the building that housed the Cantrell Funeral Home.

Craig said the investigation into the Perry Funeral Home began after a man who has sued that business over its handling of remains of infants and fetuses saw coverage of the discoveries at the Cantrell Funeral Home and told his attorney to contact police.

That lawsuit, filed in July, alleges that the Perry Funeral Home stored the remains of stillborn and live birth babies in the Wayne State University School of Mortuary Science morgue for up to three years without trying to notify parents, some of whom wanted to donate the bodies for medical research. It also alleges the funeral home may have fraudulently billed Medicaid, as well as the Detroit Medical Center, for burials it never performed.

The attorneys in that suit, Peter J. Parks and Daniel W. Cieslak, said they believe many more infants' remains may be found in the improper possession of the Perry Funeral Home, perhaps as many as 200, based on research of log books kept by the Wayne State University School of Mortuary Science.

"I'm really wondering where all the rest of them are," Cieslak said Friday.

Craig said that law enforcement agencies were considering forming a task force to target improper storage of remains and fraud in the area.

As part of investigators' widening probe, Detroit police also raided another funeral home, the Q A Cantrell Funeral Home in suburban Detroit's Eastpointe, along with a home in Grosse Pointe Woods.

The recent discovery of the 10 fetuses and one infant at the Cantrell Funeral Home came after state inspectors in April shuttered that business after finding 21 improperly stored bodies, some of them covered in mold, in the facility.

Since April, 38 unattended bodies and 269 containers of cremated remains have been discovered in the facility.